- 1 the part of the human body that is on the opposite side to the chest, between the neck and the tops of the legs; the part of an animal’s body that corresponds to this Do you sleep on your back or your front? He stood with his back to the door. They had their hands tied behind their backs. They set off with the wind at their backs (= behind them). I pulled (= injured the muscles in) my back playing squash. back pain a back massage A small boy rode on the elephant's back. CollocationsPhysical appearance A person may be described as having:Eyes (bright) blue/green/(dark/light) brown/hazel eyes deep-set/sunken/bulging/protruding eyes small/beady/sparkling/twinkling/(informal) shifty eyes piercing/penetrating/steely eyes bloodshot/watery/puffy eyes bushy/thick/dark/raised/arched eyebrows long/dark/thick/curly/false eyelashes/lashesFace a flat/bulbous/pointed/sharp/snub nose a straight/a hooked/a Roman/(formal) an aquiline nose full/thick/thin/pouty lips dry/chapped/cracked lips flushed/rosy/red/ruddy/pale cheeks soft/chubby/sunken cheeks white/perfect/crooked/protruding teeth a large/high/broad/wide/sloping forehead a strong/weak/pointed/double chin a long/full/bushy/wispy/goatee beard a long/thin/bushy/droopy/handlebar/pencil moustache/ (especially US English) mustacheHair and skin pale/fair/olive/dark/tanned skin dry/oily/smooth/rough/leathery/wrinkled skin a dark/pale/light/sallow/ruddy/olive/swarthy/clear complexion deep/fine/little/facial wrinkles blonde/blond/fair/(light/dark) brown/(jet-)black/auburn/red/(British English) ginger/grey hair straight/curly/wavy/frizzy/spiky hair thick/thin/fine/bushy/thinning hair dyed/bleached/soft/silky/dry/greasy/shiny hair long/short/shoulder-length/cropped hair a bald/balding/shaved head a receding hairline a bald patch/spot a side/centre/(US English) center (British English) parting/ (North American English) partBody a long/short/thick/slender/(disapproving) scrawny neck broad/narrow/sloping/rounded/hunched shoulders a bare/broad/muscular/small/large chest a flat/swollen/bulging stomach a small/tiny/narrow/slim/slender/28-inch waist big/wide/narrow/slim hips a straight/bent/arched/broad/hairy back thin/slender/muscular arms big/large/small/manicured/calloused/gloved hands long/short/fat/slender/delicate/bony fingers long/muscular/hairy/shapely/(both informal, often disapproving) skinny/spindly legs muscular/chubby/(informal, disapproving) flabby thighs big/little/small/dainty/wide/narrow/bare feet a good/a slim/a slender/an hourglass figure be of slim/medium/average/large/athletic/stocky build see also bareback, horseback See related entries: Body parts
- 2 the row of bones in the middle of the back synonym backbone, spine She broke her back in a riding accident. He put his back out (= dislocated something in his back) lifting the crates. part furthest from front
- 3 [usually singular] back (of something) the part or area of something that is furthest from the front We could only get seats at the back (= of the room). I found some old photos at the back of the drawer. He was shot in the back of the knee. The house has three bedrooms at the front and two at the back. (British English) There's room for three people in the back. (North American English) There's room for three people in back (= of a car, etc.). (British English) Comeround the back(= to the area behind the house) and I'll show you the garden. see also hardback, paperback, short back and sides Which Word?at the back / at the rear / behind At the back and at the rear have a similar meaning, but at the rear is used more in formal or official language:What’s that at the back of the fridge? Smoking is only allowed at the rear of the aircraft. It is more usual to talk about the back door of a house but the rear exit of an aircraft or public building. If something is behind something else it is near to the back of it but not part of it. Compare:Our room was at the back of the hotel andThere’s a lovely wood just behind our hotel. See related entries: House location of piece of paper
- 4 [usually singular] back (of something) the part of a piece of paper, etc. that is on the opposite side to the one that has information or the most important information on it Write your name on the back of the cheque. of book
- 5 [usually singular] back (of something) the last few pages of a book, etc. The television guide is at the back of the paper. of chair
- 6the part of a chair, etc. against which you lean your back -backed
- 7(in adjectives) used to describe furniture that has the type of back mentioned a high-backed sofa in sport
- 8(in some sports) a player whose main role is to defend their team’s goal compare forward see also full back, half back Word Origin Old English bæc, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch and Old Norse bak. The adverb use dates from late Middle English and is a shortening of aback.Extra examples Come around back and I’ll show you the pool. He hunches his back when he walks. He leaned his back against the bar. He smiled and gave me a hearty slap on the back. He spent six months recovering from a broken back. He was carrying a small child on his back. He was standing with his back to the fire. He yawned and stretched his back as he got out of bed. He’s in bed with a bad back. His back stiffened as he saw the photographers waiting. I had my pullover on back to front. I have a nagging pain in my lower back. I warned her she should watch her back. I was flat on my back for six weeks when I broke my leg. If you’d like to come round the back, I’ll show you the garden. My money’s all fallen down the back of the cushion. People say bad things about him behind his back, but never to his face. She decided to turn her back on Paris and return home. She decided to turn her back on Paris and return to her home town. She deserves a pat on the back for her efforts. She felt a sharp pain in the small her back. She was lying on her back on the sofa. The arts page is usually towards the back of the newspaper. The boss was certain that the staff would stop working as soon as his back was turned. The cat arched its back and hissed at the dog. The children sat back to back so they couldn’t see each others’ drawings. The cup had been pushed to the back of the cupboard. The man was refusing to go to the back of the queue. The sun beat down on their bare backs. There’s room for three people in back. They blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They tied his hands behind his back. Two passengers sat in the back of the car. We could only get seats at the back. Would you give me a back rub? a seat with good back supportIdioms if a thought, etc. is at the back of your mind, you are aware of it but it is not what you are mainly thinking about At the back of my mind was a small, warning voice, telling me it was wrong. (informal) a place that is a long way from other houses, towns, etc. We stayed in some farmhouse in the back of beyond.
- 1if two people stand back to back, they stand with their backs facing or touching each other see also back-to-back
- 2if two or more things happen back to back, they happen one after the other The team had to play three games back to back.
- 1 to move so that you are standing or sitting with your back facing somebody/something When on stage, try not to turn your back on the audience.
- 2 to reject somebody/something that you have previously been connected with She turned her back on them when they needed her. Some newspapers have turned their backs on discussion and argument.
part of body
if you put on a piece of clothing back to front, you make a mistake and put the back where the front should be I think you've got that sweater on back to front. compare inside out (informal, especially British English) to be happy that you will not have to deal with or see somebody/something again because you do not like them or it Was I pleased to see the back of her! I can’t wait to see the back of that old car. without somebody’s knowledge or permission Have you been talking about me behind my back? They went ahead and sold it behind my back. compare to somebody’s face (informal) to keep asking or telling somebody to do something that they do not want to do, in a way that they find annoying He’s still on my back about that money I borrowed. to finish the largest or most important part of a task I want to break the back of this translation before the weekend.
to realize that you may be blamed or criticized for something later and take action to avoid this Get everything in writing in order to cover your back. (informal) to annoy somebody That sort of attitude really gets my back up! (informal) to stop annoying somebody, for example by criticizing them, or asking them to do something Just get off my back, will you! (North American English, informal) to protect and support somebody Don't worry, I've got your back. I’m loyal and I’ve got your back. (informal) to be in a difficult situation in which you are forced to do something but are unable to make the choices that you would like We had our backs to the wall with no choice but to sell. to be aware of everything that is happening around you, even things that seem difficult or impossible to see You can’t get away with anything in her class. She has eyes in the back of her head.
(informal) to be very familiar with somebody/something This is where I grew up. I know this area like the back of my hand.
the last in a series of bad events, etc. that makes it impossible for you to accept a situation any longer to do something that will cause problems for you in the future (British English, informal, humorous) goods that fell off the back of a lorry were probably stolen. People say or accept that they came ‘off the back of a lorry’ to avoid saying or asking where they really came from. (informal) in bed because you are ill/sick She's been flat on her back for over a week now. (figurative) The UK market was flat on its back (= business was very bad). as a result of an achievement or a success The profits growth came on the back of a 26 per cent rise in sales. (informal) praise or approval for something that you have done well He deserves a pat on the back for all his hard work. Give yourself a pat on the back! (informal) to praise somebody or yourself for doing something well to try to forget about something unpleasant I tried to push the thought to the back of my mind. to use a lot of effort and energy on a particular task anything that somebody has, including the things they really need themselves, that somebody else takes from them or they are willing to give He was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back. (informal) an act that harms somebody, done by a person they thought was a friend Her refusal to support his campaign was a real stab in the back. to do or say something that harms somebody who trusts you synonym betray stab somebody in the backtell to turn so that you are facing in the opposite direction